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English Premier League Preview: A Greater Manchester Derby Sees Bolton Face Wigan At The DW

#5. Wigan Athletic versus Bolton Wanderers
Location: The DW Stadium (Wigan)
Date: Saturday, October 23
Time: 10:00 a.m. Eastern
Records (W-D-L, +/-, Place):
Wigan, 2-3-3, -9, 15th
Bolton, 2-5-1, +0, 7th

Wigan was once thought on-track to be one of the worst teams in Premier League history. Now, the Latics have gone a month without losing. True, that figure's conveniently buffered by the last international break, but given all the negative exaggerations we could have written about Wigan a month ago, I carry no guilt in some excessive positivity.

On Saturday, Wigan's visited by a rival Trotters club that's lost only once all season. In the past, that hot start would not be enough to draw attention to this derby, with the kludgy style of each club portending an unattractive match. Since, we've seen a dramatically positive change in each club's playing style. Whereas it wasn't too long ago that this match featured a Steve Bruce-styled outfit against Gary Megson's, now we have Roberto Martínez and Owen Coyle, a change that's akin to discovering Barney Ronay after spending a lifetime reading Woody Paige (seriously: compare and contrast). 

As far as watching the football, well, there are four matches which kick-off at the same time. Given Chelsea's in one of them, I'm not going to tell you to find a stream contact your local cable provider. Watch the Blues, but take time to find a replay of this one, if for no other reason than to support the change in culture. Bludgeoning your opponents into submission is something no longer condoned simply because your club's in the bottom half.

As we see Martínez, Coyle, Roberto di Matteo, and Ian Holloway come into the league, we can hope he styles of Megson and (his predecessor) Sam Allardyce are fading out.

Probable Lineup, Wigan (4-3-3): Kirkland - Figueroa, Alcaraz, S Caldwell, Boyce - Thomas, McCarthy, Gómez - Rodallega, Di Santo, N'Zogbia

On loan from the Trotters, starting goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi can not play against Bolton.Thus Kirkland's recall.

Probable Lineup, Bolton (4-2-2/4-1-3-2): Jaaskelainen - Robinson, Knight, Cahill, Steinsson - Muamba, Petrov, Holden, Lee - Davies, Elmander

Key Matchup: Chris Kirkland against Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander; or, better put, will Kirkland manage his area well enough to force Bolton to beat Wigan on the ground (rather than being able to mix-it-up by occasionally targeting their two forwards)? Kirkland hasn't played since his early season benching. He'll need to quickly regain his feel for the game.

Battle Within The Battle: Roberto Martínez continues to try to achieve a semblance of consistency with the Latics. At times they look horrible, but then they're able to get results like last week's at St. James' Park, an inconsistency that dates back to the beginning of Martínez's reign.

Then, Wigan barely survived, having been grossly outscored. This year, even though they've recovered from a terrible start, Wigan is still not scoring enough goals (six, tied for worst) while allowing too many (15, only one team worse). I'm not a professional or anything, but if you're not good at scoring or preventing goals, what does your team do well? After more than a year on the job, Martínez is still trying to find out.

Pick: Bolton, 1-2.